Monday, December 14, 2009

Comfort

Monday, December 14, 2009 -- Week of 2 Advent, Year Two
Henry Budd, Priest, 1875

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 939)
Psalms 41, 52 (morning) 44 (evening)
Zechariah1:7-17
Revelation 3:7-13
Matthew 24:15-31

First, a word about our feast today: Budd, Henry [Ordained Apr. 2, 1875] First Amerindian (Cree) ordained in North America (Saskatchewan). An effective evangelist, he served his people faithfully despite discrimination from the CMS which paid him only half the stipend of the white missionaries. (Dec. 14)
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Zechariah speaks of God's concern for God's people in a difficult time. He speaks to the exiles who have returned from Babylon, who now live in a time of want and depression. In the vision of God's heavenly patrol, the four horsemen return to report there is peace throughout the world. That is not good news, says Zechariah, speaking for God. The world should not be at peace, at ease, while God's people are poor and suffering. God's compassion will restore. "Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity; the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem."

John's vision in Revelation is also a word of comfort. He speaks to the most remote and least prosperous of the seven churches he addresses. He commends their endurance, and encourages their perseverance. He promises that God will honor them in the new Jerusalem.

And though the words from Matthew's Gospel sound ominous to us, they would have been read as comforting words in their original context. This section of apocalypse encourages a weak and troubled community to hope. Though woes and threats may abound, confusion and conflict increase, do not fear. Jesus will return "with power and great glory" to raise up his people and to restore everything.

Over and over the words of scripture speak hope to God's people in times when things look their bleakest. God is with us to sustain the weary and threatened. God promises to execute justice on behalf of the oppressed. God promises renewal to those who have suffered. God promises life in the midst of death's threats.

I had an email from a friend who has just been diagnosed with a threatening disease. The statistics are grim -- 80% mortality rate. Because he's relatively young (early 60's) and in good health, if another test shows clear, maybe he's got a 30% chance.

I've known him a long time, and I've known that for him the words of the vision of St. Julian of Norwich have been a central focus of his spirituality for a long time. At age 30, suffering on what she believed would be her deathbed, Julian received a series of visions that she recalled after her recovery and published as Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love, believed to be the first book written in English by a woman. She spoke of God's compassion. Her revelations are often summarized in the most memorable line, "All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well."

I wrote to my friend last week to ask him how he was doing. His reply: "It runs pretty deep in me about 'All shall be well.' I was reading Merton a few days ago, 'His confidence in God is perfect, because he 'knows,' so to speak, by experience that God cannot fail him. ...For such ...lovers of God ... All things manifest the loving mercy of God. All things enable them to grow in love. All events serve to unite them to God.'"

He embraces that hope that all things, even life threatening illness, are means to our end which is union with God. He's calling on friends to hold him up in his crankiness. Deep within, he's holding on to this hopeful union in the face of his troubles. "Comfort, comfort ye, my people."

Lowell
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About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.


Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html


The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

2 Comments:

At 11:52 PM, Anonymous janetlgraige said...

Lowell,

As both a Merton and Julian devotee and student I am moved to words and action. I will say evening prayer this night on your friend's behalf. He has mentioned some powerful spiritual guides to lean into. May Christ's holy and healing spirit enfold him in love and peace. Janet

 
At 7:48 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Janet,
Thanks for your prayers for Bob.

 

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